By Colin MacGillivray
MITCHELL Shire aged care residents and frontline healthcare workers will be among the first Australians to receive COVID-19 vaccines in coming weeks.
The initial stages of the Federal Government’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy will be delivered across Victoria at nine health service hubs. The hub for Mitchell Shire residents is Goulburn Valley Health in Shepparton.
The first people to be vaccinated as part of phase 1a of vaccine rollout include selected frontline healthcare workers, aged care residents and staff, and quarantine and border workers.
GV Health COVID-response executive manager Alicia Cunningham said people would begin receiving vaccines at the hub from next week.
“We are excited that the vaccines will soon arrive at the GV Health vaccine hub and that COVID-19 vaccinations will commence from the week of March 8,” she said.
“The first front-line staff to receive the vaccine that week will be those working at the Graham Street campus of GV Health in Shepparton and will include 150 staff working in the emergency department, COVID-19 testing and respiratory ward, and in the critical care unit. This will be followed by the public aged care residents located at GV Health Aged Care facilities at the Shepparton, Tatura and Rushworth campuses from March 15.”
Kilmore District Health chief executive David Naughton said Kilmore aged care residents and staff would likely begin to receive vaccines later in March.
“We’re still waiting for the details. We’re anticipating that this will be happening here towards the end of March. We are meeting with GV Health [this week] so we should know more after that,” he said.
“Residential aged care residents, like our two 30-bed places, and our staff in the 1a cohort are our responsibility, and we’ll continue to work with the GV Health public health unit who have got the responsibility to coordinate it all. We’re working with them really closely. They will be giving us the advice about when to expect things to happen.”
Mr Naughton said aged care residents would not need to travel to receive their vaccinations.
“At this point all of our aged care residents will get the vaccine in situ in the residential aged care facilities. They don’t have to move,” he said.
“With the staff we’re just trying to work out exactly whether they will come to us or whether our staff will go to them.”
Seymour Health chief executive Ward Steet said he expected vaccinations to start in the Seymour region from March 22.
“Seymour Health is working in close partnership with the GV Health vaccine hub to ensure the vaccine will be available as soon as possible in the Seymour region,” he said.
“Our frontline healthcare workers and public sector aged care staff and residents will be vaccinated first as part of the commonwealth’s phase 1a rollout. A community vaccination program will follow after the phase 1a vaccine rollout, with the timing and logistics of this currently being planned.”
Mr Naughton said while the finer details of the vaccination program were still being discussed, he expected everything to run smoothly.
“Immunisations have been given out across Australia for years, and we know what to do,” he said.
“Every year we do winter flu immunisations for all of our staff, and last year I think we had 96 per cent of our staff who got the winter flu immunisation.”
GV Health chief executive Matt Sharp said the health service was in daily contact with relevant government departments and would continue to provide updates on the vaccination program.
“The GV Health COVID-19 vaccine team is working tirelessly to prepare for the vaccine launch during the week of March 8,” he said.
“We understand the … community has a lot of interest in and questions about the COVID-19 vaccine launch and we will endeavour to keep the community informed throughout the vaccine rollout period.”